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Pride Month Celebration

The advent of the summer season marks the month during which New York State and the world celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and/or Allies).

June was chosen as Pride Month in memory of the Stonewall riots, during which members of the LGBTQIA+ community protested a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969.

Stonewall marked a turning point for the LGBTQIA+ movement in the United States, with advocates demanding the establishment of places where LGBTQIA+ people could go and be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest. On the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1970, the first-ever Pride march was held in New York City.

The theme of this year's New York City Pride events is "The Fight Continues," building on the idea that while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community. Like the fight for environmental stewardship and environmental justice, the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights aims to call attention to communities and issues that have been ignored, or worse, abused.

DEC is proud to celebrate our LGBTQIA+ employees, whose contributions advance our environmental protections and advocacy and the greater human experience. Learn more about how New York State will be commemorating Pride Month (leaves DEC website).

DEC is dedicated to providing a work environment that fully supports and fosters diversity and inclusion. DEC's mission of protecting the environment can only be successfully accomplished when we embrace the diversity, strengths, and talents of all our employees.

Patrick Foster

(Pronouns: he/him/his)

man holding pride flag

Patrick Foster grew up in a rural community in a small town in Indiana. He loves his hometown, but says that he knew he would have to leave at a young age because he was different. The Indiana woods provided comfort, wonder and adventure throughout his childhood.

His coming-out process started during college in Chicago and led him to the West Coast and back to Indiana where he finished his undergraduate degree. He moved to New York City and attended graduate and law school there, focusing on environmental law and policy.

Patrick is the Acting Regional Director and Regional Attorney for DEC Region 2. He joined DEC in 2013 and worked in Region 9 and Central Office before moving home to Region 2.

You can generally find him in one of New York City's many green spaces or upstate when he's not at the office. He also gets to the Adirondacks with friends and his partner of 20 years as much as he can, taking time for cross-country skiing, hiking, paddling, and enjoying the magic of being around a campfire.

He appreciates that New York City has long been a haven for LGBTQIA+ people, after much struggle and with the support of many allies. New York State and New York City have become his home and he feels fortunate to be able to help protect the precious natural places that he loves here.

Brian Frank

(Pronouns: he/him/his)

proud

Brian Frank holds a B.S. from Carnegie-Mellon University, a Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a New York State Professional Engineering license, all of them in Chemical Engineering. He worked in the commercial, start-up, and academic fields before coming to DEC.

He joined DEC in 2000, in part because of New York State's non-discriminatory hiring practices, and is a Research Scientist in the Division of Air. He heads the Emissions Measurement Research Group, which is currently focused on the impact of traffic-related air pollutants on Environmental Justice communities, particularly in Albany's South End. You can find out more about his group's work here: On the Front Lines - Air Research Scientist - YouTube (leaves DEC website). Brian and his team are also passionate about their work supporting the UAlbany Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) for minority and disadvantaged youth in the STEM fields.

Brian became active in the LGBTQIA+ parenting community in the early 2000s at the local, state, and national levels. He and his co-parent were the first male couple to successfully adopt through Albany County foster care, and one of the first same-sex couples to jointly adopt in New York. Brian is currently a full-time single father and a proud parent of an African-American teenager. He and his son live together in Albany.

Kramer Kwazcala

(Pronouns: he/him/his)

man in hunting gear with a dog

Kramer Kwaczala is a Forester in DEC's Division of Lands and Forests Conservation Easements program. He first joined DEC in January 2015 as a Forest Technician in the Private Lands program. In 2016, he joined the DEC Region 3 office in New Paltz as a Forester (also for the Private Lands program), then returned to Albany and joined the Conservation Easements program.

Like many at DEC, Kramer studied at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) in Syracuse as well as the SUNY ESF Ranger School in Wanakena. He earned a bachelor's degree in Forest Resource Management and an associate's degree in Forest Technology.

One of the things Kramer enjoys most about working for DEC is fighting for the environment and making it a better place for future generations. He also appreciates the lifelong friendships he has made and the warm camaraderie among coworkers.

While work is an important part of his life, Kramer strives for balance. He enjoys hunting, camping, video games, training (playing) with his German shepherd dog, and being outdoors with friends and family.

Kramer says, "The celebration of Pride Month means that I can be who I am because of the people who fought very hard for our equality. I am forever grateful that I was able to marry my husband in 2019, in part due to the LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies who overcame so many hardships in the past."

Robbi Mecus

(Pronouns: she/her/hers)

woman with skis at a mountain

Robbi has been a Forest Ranger with DEC for more than 22 years, and works in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. She began her career in Region 3, and spent 15 years in the mid-Hudson Valley. What she loves most about her job is getting to interact with, educate, and occasionally even rescue people from really diverse backgrounds, and do it in some of the most beautiful scenery in all of New York!

She is a parent and an avid climber and mountaineer. Traveling all over the world to climb mountains-Patagonia, Nepal, and Alaska and elsewhere in the U.S.-has provided an opportunity to engage with cultures and people she would otherwise never have met. It's also given her the skillset to develop and help manage DEC's technical rope rescue program.

Active in her home community of Keene Valley with diversity, equity, and inclusion work, she is trying to create a more welcoming and affirming space for residents and visitors. She is also on the diversity, equity, and inclusion committee for the Mountain Rescue Association, an organization of search-and-rescue (SAR) teams from across the country, educating volunteer and municipal SAR teams about the benefits of diversity on their teams and how they can create more inclusive environments for their members. Lastly, she is a transgender woman. She says lastly because, even though that is a big part of her identity, it is only one part of her identity; she is a parent, a Forest Ranger, a community volunteer, and a climber, who just happens to be trans. It took her 42 years to openly admit she was trans, partly because she didn't see anyone like her leading the life she wanted to lead. It didn't seem possible to be all of those things and also be trans. To Robbi, visibility means being open and letting other trans folks, both young and grown, see that there is space for them to be themselves and live the lives they deserve. She also wants the cisgender community to see trans narratives that aren't filled with only discrimination, hatred, violence, and pain. She believes that those who identify as LBGTQIA+ are so much more than just a letter.

Andrew Randazzo

(Pronouns: he/him/his)

man at a waterfall

Andrew Randazzo works in the Division of Lands and Forests, focusing on education and outreach for a variety of natural resource topics. He is proud to work in the natural resources field as an openly gay/queer, cisgender man. He lives in Albany, with his partner Drew, and has enjoyed working at DEC's Central Office for the past two years.

Andrew graduated from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2015 with a degree in Natural Resources Management. Currently, he is pursuing a Masters of Natural Resources from Oregon State University. For his capstone project he is working as a Research Associate with Mohonk Preserve. His project will help Mohonk Preserve assess the vulnerability of their unique forest ecosystems and identify climate-adaptive forest-management strategies.

When he's not working or studying, Andrew enjoys backpacking, canoeing, and hanging out with his 30-year-old turtle, Brownie. He's also a big fan of waterfalls-he's pictured here at Lye Brook Falls in the Green Mountains!

David Witt

(Pronouns: he/him/his)

man in front of archaelogical site

David Witt is DEC's Indian Nations Affairs coordinator, where he serves as liaison between the agency and indigenous nations throughout the state. He oversees and coordinates DEC's implementation of CP-42, Commissioner's Policy on Contact, Cooperation, and Consultation with Indian Nations (PDF). Hailing from Los Angeles, he went to Buffalo for graduate school and fell in love with upstate New York. He has degrees in anthropology, archaeology, geography, and history, and worked as an archaeologist in various consulting firms before coming to DEC.

At DEC, Dave also helps involve low-income and minority communities in the decision-making process through his duties with the Office of Environmental Justice. He recently updated the Potential Environmental Justice Areas map and is helping develop the disadvantaged communities definition as part of the agency's obligations under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Outside of work, Dave has published articles on the history of archaeology, soundscapes in archaeological and historic contexts, and the role of jewelry in Prehispanic Southwest cultures. He is also currently (slowly) editing a volume on borders and frontiers in the Prehispanic Southwest.

Dave married his husband, Cory, a chemistry post-doctorate, on the 2010 Spring Equinox in Bolton, VT. Since then, Cory has entertained (and attenuated) Dave's wilder side, joining him at archaelogical sites, getting too close to waterfalls in Letchworth State Park, and playing Dungeons & Dragons.


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